We report the first atomic resolution structure of an insect virus determined by single crystal X-ray diffraction. Black beetle virus has a bipartite RNA genome encapsulated in a single particle. The capsid contains 180 protomers arranged on a T = 3 surface lattice. The quaternary organization of the protomers is similar to that observed in the T = 3 plant virus structures. The protomers consist of a basic, crystallographically disordered amino terminus (64 residues), a beta-barrel as seen in other animal and plant virus subunits, an outer protrusion composed predominantly of beta-sheet and formed by three large insertions between strands of the barrel, and a carboxy terminal domain composed of two distorted helices lying inside the shell. The outer surfaces of quasi-threefold related protomers form trigonal pyramidyl protrusions. A cleavage site, located 44 residues from the carboxy terminus, lies within the central cavity of the protein shell. The structural motif observed in BBV (a shell composed of 180 eight-stranded antiparallel beta-barrels) is common to all nonsatellite spherical viruses whose structures have so far been solved. This highly conserved shell architecture suggests a common origin for the coat protein of spherical viruses, while the primitive genome structure of BBV suggests that this insect virus represents an early stage in the evolution of spherical viruses from cellular genes.